Fianna Fáil TD and Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has said that supporting SMEs and the self-employed must be a top priority for Government ahead of Budget 2017.

Speaking amid reports this week that bank lending to the SME sector is rising Deputy Collins has said “While I welcome increased access to capital for self-employed people, more must be done to cultivate a competitive landscape for entrepreneurs in Ireland.

“To date there has been a lack of progress in improving Ireland’s competitiveness. Ireland’s high costs pose problems in attracting more business start-ups, both domestic and foreign.

“National competitiveness is further undermined by severe skills shortages, impediments in infrastructure and threats of industrial unrest. Commercial rates remain too high high and preventing start-up businesses from expanding require real reform. The unequal tax treatment of the self-employed continues to act as a major disincentive. These deficiencies must be addressed by the government to ensure that future jobs growth reaches all regions, as opposed to the two tier recovery we have been experiencing.

“Currently entrepreneurs are reluctant to commit their time and money to starting up their own business as they are fearful of not having a safety net should they fail. Fianna Fáil will continue to push for a move towards a social welfare safety net by allowing self-employed people to make full Class A PRSI contributions in order to qualify for Jobseekers Benefit and Invalidity Benefit.

“We need to strengthen businesses operating in rural Ireland. Fianna Fáil proposes a significant programme of investment in infrastructure, such as broadband, to ensure SME’s can continue to operate throughout Ireland. We believe that much more needs to be done to support self-employed people in creating employment in local communities,” added Deputy Collins.